While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reiteration of his nation’s “support” for a two-state solution in a post-election chat with Benjamin Netanyahu may be as disingenuous as Bibi’s, that’s not the only thing the two leaders have in common.
Besides forming a mutual admiration society (although one does sense the political bro-mance is slightly more cloying and clingy from Harper’s side), the two leaders seem to be engaged in a game of spot the difference.
For starters, both leaders are playing the fear-mongering, race-baiting card to attract voters and deflect attention from more urgent economic issues. While the cost of living skyrockets in Israel, in Canada, the dollar has hit a six-year low and the decline in oil prices has hit many regions below the belt.
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But Bibi seems more obsessed with Iran than his people’s quality of life, and Harper has been harping on about a tiny percentage of Canadian women who wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.
‘Patriot act’ style proposals
And both are appealing to the far right and religious conservatives for support. While progressive groups like Independent Jewish Voices are critical of Harper’s unwavering support for right wing Israeli policies, the Canadian prime minister is playing as much to more conservative Jewish voters as he is to Christian evangelicals.
Despite national ongoing protests against his Bill C-51, the proposed “anti-terror” law, by Canadians concerned about civil liberties and racial profiling, his “patriot act” style proposals have struck a chord with his base.
Both leaders represent the 'dark side' of their countries, as well as a certain unvarnished truth, at odds with their national mythologies. Both states are settler nations ... with a history of violence and displacement of indigenous peoples.
And in light of Bibi’s recent success at the polls, once wonders if Netanyahu style tactics might also work for Harper this election year. He, too, is an unpopular leader with many voters who nonetheless always seems to rally round at the polls. There are important electoral differences of course – Israel has a system of proportional representation while Canada does not. Still, there are many points of comparison between the two leaders.
Ultimately both leaders represent the “dark side” of their countries, as well as a certain unvarnished truth, at odds with their national mythologies. Both states are settler nations (Canada’s native reserve system was an early model for South African apartheid) with a history of violence and displacement of indigenous peoples.
And yet both Canada and Israel have national mythologies that perpetuate their status as kinder, gentler, peace loving democracies. In Canada, the bogeyman is often our neighbour to the South; it’s much easier to evilise America as a place where racism is rampant and violence is endemic, rather than to look at our own issues (although kudos to the mayor of Winnipeg who recently came out and called a spade a spade vis-a-vis racism against First Nations peoples).
In many ways, the US is much more of a melting pot than Canada, where English and French Canadians still pride themselves on the number of generations their settler ancestors have been in country and anyone olive-skinned or Asian eyed is perpetually asked “where are you from”?
Intriguingly this is rather at odds with the Israeli facts-on-the-ground settler mentality, although a certain breed of sabras – especially Ashkenazis – cast a dismissive eye on the “newcomers” from Russia and America (not to mention African migrant workers.)
In Israel, the bogeymen are also neighbours – like Iran, Hezbollah and of course Palestinians not only in Gaza and the West Bank but also the “Arab bloc” of voters that Netanyahu used as last minute fear mongering/vote getting tactic.
The reality of settler and extremist violence (after all, Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a Jewish, not an Arab, extremist) is often swept under the carpet.
Of course, Israel’s security threats are much greater than Canada’s. In fact, according to CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Muslim terrorists are less of a threat than white supremacists and “lone wolf” attacks are more likely to come from radical right-wingers than radical Islamists.
But whether real, imagined or grossly overstated, threats – “existential” or otherwise – to both nations represent an ideal situation for right wing siege mentality fear mongering.
The reality is, both countries have more to fear from their own leaders, whose actions are doing more to erode their nations’ best elements of democratic process, peace and social justice than any of the usual bogeymen could hope for.
Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone: a Woman’s Journey Through Iraq and has been reporting from Iraq since 1997.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.